Am I Better Off?

Lately, I’ve been hearing this question a lot:

Of course, no one’s actually asked me this as yet, but I figure it’s just a matter of time before they do. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be you doing the asking. So, I figure, might as well answer it now, on account that I’m chomping at the bit to tell you exactly how I’ve been doing these past four years. Though, you may very well regret you asked. (Oh, you didn’t ask? Well, that’s alright. I’m happy to tell you, anyway.)

Am I better off?

Truth be known, I could be better.

First, there’s the matter of my knee. It started acting up about a year ago when I was taking a class in leadership and someone got the bright idea to split us into teams for a scavenger hunt of sorts, as part of a team-building assignment. Next thing you know, we were plopped smack in the middle of the zoo, where we were given our marching orders. And marching we did! Along with running, trotting, jogging, climbing and descending, not to mention, dripping sweat, and gasping for air.

Because, if you know anything about the zoo in San Diego, you know it was built on a hill. Maybe even seven hills, like Rome. Only these hills are steep, whether you’re going down or up. And scavenger hunts, by their very nature, are designed to have you running around in all directions, willy-nilly.

Right away, the clock was ticking. We had an hour to find all the zoo animals on our list, and figure out the answer to a riddle about each. My friends, what you have here is a recipe for disaster, particularly for a woman of a certain age, who is well past 21.

In no time, my knee began to rebel from the brutal pummeling it was getting in my vain attempt to keep up with my team of thirty-something’s. By the next day, I was sore. Two days later I was aching. On the third day I was limping. All the ice and heating pads in the world did little to avail my pain.

Within a week I was incapacitated and a few weeks after that, my doctor referred me to physical therapy. My therapist took one look at me and I could tell at once he was skeptical I’d ever walk again. After one session, I was pretty sure he was ready to send me to the glue factory.

Completely defeated, I went home with a notebook of knee exercises he’d given me. Little by little, we began to see improvement, but, if you ask me, my knee has never been the same.

Then there’s the matter of the neck. Four years ago I still had a neck. Now, where my neck once was, there’s a mass of chicken flesh, all saggy and wrinkly with mottled skin where smooth skin had once been. The kind of neck that screams, “Look at me! I’m as  old as the hills!”

Now, I know what Nora Ephron meant when she said she felt bad about her neck. And, why Diane Keaton wears scarves all the time and other protective gear to hide her skin. Which is why, I’m thinking of wearing a scuba helmet when I go out. After all, I’d go to any lengths to disguise this neck.

While we’re on the subject, have you seen my eyes lately? Let’s just say, from now on, it’s dark sunglasses 24/7. Jack Nicholson, you’ve got the right idea!

And, we won’t even discuss those extra pounds of late, from all that rich, European chocolate that tastes–OMG, let me see if I have any left! Nope.

Sigh.

So, am I better off? Heck, no!

Not better off, not by a long-shot. So, thanks for nothing, President Obama! Take that, Governor Romney!

Yep, the verdict’s in: I’m not better off!

I beg your pardon? What’s that you say? That’s not what this question is all about? Hmm…

Well then, never mind. I’m fine. Thank you very much.

Breaking News: My Brother’s Got the Scoop

My brother and I have this thing. Call it one-upmanship. Call it a contest to see who can be first. Call it sibling rivalry at it’s worst. He actually started it, many years ago, and in the beginning, I didn’t think anything about it. But, suddenly it dawned on me, and, when it did, I said,

This is how I learned that my idol, Nora Ephron, had passed away.

“Game on!”

And, ever since, it’s been a mad dash to the finish.  Everyone at work is privy to this race of ours, and some have even tried to help me win. But I rarely do. You see, my brother is quite adept at this and he definitely has an advantage, he being in a time zone that is two hours ahead of mine, so I’m often still asleep when he awakens and gets the latest scoop.

Still haven’t figured it out?

My brother loves to be the first with breaking news. He’s a regular news wire, Twitter feed, CNN junkie all rolled into one. He has his finger on the pulse and the other hovering over his smart phone, at the ready, to send out a text to all the family with the latest news.

Plain and simple, my brother was born to be a journalist, a muckraker, a newspaper reporter, a newshound. Yet, he’s none of these.  Not by profession, anyway.

Mostly, he has a zeal for being first with breaking news about celebrity deaths, but on occasion he’s been first to tell me breaking news about celebrity, well, breakups (for example, think Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes).

This goes as far back as Princess Diana. In those days, neither of us had cell phones. I’ll never forget that evening. It was late August, kids were still out of school, enjoying the last days of their summer vacation, and we had spent the entire evening doing one of our favorite things, exploring our local bookstore. We had just returned home, each of us having added two to three books to our personal libraries, when the phone rang.

I picked it up. It was my brother.

“Watch the news. Princess Diana is dead!”  He blurted, and then hung up.

No, wait. This actually started further back than Princess Diana. It was in 1994!

A Friday evening in early June. I remember because I was sick to my stomach. I had gone out with friends from work to celebrate someone’s retirement and we had eaten at this Greek place and though I love Greek food, I got sick. Really, really sick. I couldn’t-keep-anything-down I was so sick. So I was home in a near coma, laying on my bed in a pool of sweat and drifting in and out of consciousness, when the phone rang.

“Turn on the TV. OJ’s being chased by the police!”

That’s all my brother said and hung up. In my delirium, I did what I was told. I dragged myself out of bed and turned on the TV. I watched for the next several hours, what would turn out to be the most incredibly slow chase in history. I wasn’t sure whether my eyes were deceiving me, and to this day, I still wonder how much of that chase was real and how much of it was part of some surreal Fellini-like dream that I was having as a result of my debilitating nausea.

In any case, over the years, my brother must have told me of about 277 celebrity deaths, including Phil Hartman, Whitney Houston, Dick Clark, Donna Summers, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Trisha tried to help me be first with news about Andy Griffith.

About a week ago, Andy Griffith died. My friend, Trisha, tried to give me the heads up via text, hoping I’d be first with the news. But she doesn’t have the practice, the experience and the tenacity, that my brother has and so, she couldn’t compete. He beat her text by mere minutes.

But, there’s always the next time. Like this past Sunday, when Academy-Award winning actor, Ernest Borgnine, passed away. I happened to be on my computer when the email alert from The Washington Post arrived with the news. I immediately looked at my texts to see if I’d received one from my brother. Nope. I then went into action and sent a text and an email, not only to my brother, but to all my siblings so they could have proof that I was first with the news.

Well, as macabre as this contest might seem, I’m in it for the long haul. So, until next time, Bro!

Nora, Tommy & the Hispano Bloggers Awards

We’re halfway through 2012, and the Fifty/Fifty challenge is looming LARGE, taunting me, as if it already knows I’m not going to make it.

For, I’m falling behind like nobody’s business.

But, cut me some slack, okay? You all know how busy I am. Frankly, I don’t know why I agreed to this aggressive challenge, anyway, but the fact of the matter is I did, and now I just have to deal.

So here’s what I did this month: I embraced my romantic side.

Yes, this jaded Latina from Queens, who still has the scars of divorce imprinted on her heart, still wants to believe in that happily ever after ending. Maybe it’s a dream. Maybe I’m in love with love, or, rather, love, as it appears in the movies. Too bad life doesn’t imitate art.

And no one portrays love in the cinema like Nora Ephron, the greatest, happy-go-lucky romantic of them all, who, sadly passed away this June. Nora looked on the bright side of life, and her movies resonate with her upbeat style and sensibility. Which is why I decided to have myself a Nora Ephron movie marathon, which I started in June and, time got the better of me, so my marathon sort of wiggled its way into early July (Happy Fourth, Nora!) and I haven’t quite finished (Mixed Nuts and Julie and Julia, you’re next!)

I watched Heartburn (the most empowering movie about divorce, ever!), Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally. I have to tell you, after watching these four films, I’ve come to the conclusion that Nora’s movies are not necessarily love stories centered on two people. Nope.

What these films really and truly represent, is an exquisitely gift-wrapped homage to what was undoubtedly Nora’s greatest love of all:  New York City. Manhattan, the city that never sleeps.

These movies celebrate all that is beautiful, dreamy and sublime about the city. The music sets the tone and the stories capture the jazzy mood of Manhattan, much like the films of Woody Allen.  Even, Sleepless in Seattle comes to a rousing, starry-eyed finale at the top of the Empire State Building, which is all lit up—thanks to technical wizardy—with a giant red heart. Ah, love! Ah, New York!

Ah, Nora! Ah, Tommy!

Singer/Songwriter, Tommy Torres

Tommy? Yes, Tommy.  For, when it comes to love, what better way to express the feelings it stirs than through music? As Shakespeare himself, wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on.”

Sure, Harry Connick, Jr. and Jimmy Durante have it down in Nora’s movies. Their love songs trip the light fantastic, building upon the idealistic feelings the films convey. But, any Latina knows, that when it comes to genuine, heartbreaking, passionate, die-for-love romance, Latin lovers have a way with words—and song.

And lately, here’s whom I’ve been listening to: Tommy Torres. He’s a big sensation in Latin countries, but that’s changing, so watch out. Tommy Torres is crossing over.

Now, I love coming across new talent. But, Tommy’s been around for over a decade, writing songs for the likes of Alicia Keyes and Ricky Martin. He’s got a voice and a way around a keyboard that reaches into the depths of your soul. His music and his voice, which reminds me of the style of Jamie Cullum and James Morrison, are very sexy, indeed.

I could listen to Tommy Torres all day long. And, if you ask me, there’s nothing like a love song enhanced by the sound of a piano, guaranteed to tug at my heartstrings.  Listen to his latest, titled “Querido Tommy” (Dear Tommy) and see what I mean. It is a love letter, an impassioned request for advice from a lovelorn fan:

What’s special about this song is its roots in social media. A fan named Paco, contacted Tommy through Twitter, asking for his advice. At first, Tommy didn’t respond, so Paco sent him another message. This time, Tommy replied by creating this song. Released through social media in late May, it became an instant hit, and to date has received more than 800,000 visits on YouTube.

Tommy has an album coming out in August (The album release date was actually moved up as a result of the song’s success). So, stay tuned. For, I am certain Tommy and his music are going places!

Hispano Bloggers In other news, Ashley (who you may recall, recently adopted a puppy) has nominated me for a 2012 Hispano Bloggers award! This is such an honor–and incredibly flattering. It is also unexpected (I did not put her up to this!), but, now that I’ve been nominated, I must do my part to help Ashley help me win!

So, here’s where you come in: Ashley and I would love it if you tweeted the news about my nomination. Here’s the info for the tweet, which you can copy and paste:

@AshleyR125 just nominated @monicastangled for the 2012 #HispanoBlogger Awards: http://HispanoBloggers.com! #2012HBAwards #Hispz #Latism.

The more it’s tweeted, the better my chances, so I’m counting on you!

Oh, and getting back to my Fifty/Fifty challenge, I actually read a book and saw a couple of other films in June, and you can find them on my Fifty/Fifty page.

So, tell me, what have you been up to, vis-à-vis, movies, music and/or mayhem? And, while you’re at it, any books to recommend?

And I Quote, Part 3

I know what you’re thinking. It’s been far too long since I’ve posted any quotes. Well, fear not. This is your red-letter day!

On the Dissolution of a Marriage:

Incidentally, I also recommend the film version with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson!

The first time I read Nora Ephron’s book, Heartburn, I cried when I came to this passage. As far as I was concerned, Nora hit the nail on the head. It was as if I had written this, not her. For, she seemed to be describing my life at the time, and those thoughts were my thoughts, too:

“I am no beauty, and I’m getting on in years, and I have just about enough money to last me sixty days, and I am terrified of being alone, and I can’t bear the idea of divorce, but I would rather die than sit here and pretend it’s okay, I would rather die than sit here figuring out how to get you to love me again, I would rather die than spend five more minutes going through your drawer and wondering where you are and anticipating the next betrayal and worrying about whether my poor, beat-up, middle-aged body with its Caesarean scars will ever turn you on again. I can’t stand feeling sorry for myself. I can’t stand feeling like a victim. I can’t stand hoping against hope. I can’t stand sitting here with all this rage turning to hurt and then to tears. I can’t stand not talking!”—Nora Ephron, Heartburn

In the Blogosphere:

Now, here’s what I love about blogging: I’ve met so many bloggers and have enjoyed perusing their posts and comments. Here are a few that I absolutely adore:

On Aging:

This blogger never ceases to crack me up. Here’s her take on getting old:

“Now I dash from one low lit area to the next to camouflage the vicious effects of age…a zoo mauling if you will. It’s as though my body got caught in a twister and hasn’t touched down.”Annie Off Leash

On Relationships:

I admire the blogger who wrote this, for her spirituality:

“People are not mean to us because they do not like us. They are mean to us because they do not like themselves.”

Jodi, Heal Now and Forever Be in Peace

This next one is from a blogger who seems to question whether she can write poetry. Well, if you ask me, poetry is her forte.

“Each memory once wrapped
delicately in layers of pink tissue paper,
then stored,
now savagely exposed,
dropped in haste
clothes strewn at our feet
our renewed passion
spent
on the sheets
of the rented bed in
room 619.”

— From “When the Heart Decides,” a poem by Brenda Moguez, Passionate Pursuits

On Being Female:  This has to be one of my favorite comments left on a blog, ever, and it happens to be in reference to a poem written by Brenda:

“I so love visiting your site, Brenda. Whenever you write about womanhood, I hear a chiffon dress whispering, smell lipstick and strawberries, and feel like I glimpse pieces of my soul. Thank you.” – Beverly Diehl, Writing in Flow

On Writing a Group Mystery

One of my favorite lines, in the recent mystery on the high seas story that Bella and I asked for your help in writing, was from Bella, herself.  She posted this to the story on her blog, and when I read it, I couldn’t stop laughing.

“Raoul!” The deep, booming voice of Captain Alvarez Mendoza Santiago Perez sliced through the tension-filled room like a knife! “I’ve got two women engaged in a cat fight on the Lido deck, another snapping pictures and spilling her drink everywhere, Bartholomew fighting off the crowd single-handedly, and the dead woman on ice in the dining room. What the hell are you waiting for?” – Bella, One Sister’s Rant

On Crime & the Law Not Mixing:

Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham in “Downton Abbey.”

This next one is from Weeds, a TV series centered around Nancy Botwin, a suburban single mom who sells pot for a living.

“Babe, these are cops. I’m a drug dealer, you’re a murderer. We can’t all play on the same kick ball team.” — Nancy Botwin to her young son, Shane, on why he can’t befriend a police officer

On Mothers

I chose this one because, well, dammit, it’s good. That’s all.

“I wanted you to love me—no, I wanted more than that: I wanted to be like you, just like you, wanted to wear those scarves and that scent, to hang that pendant around my neck, to put on those stockings and pearls, to dress in silk dresses the way you did, and wear your favorite shade of lipstick on my lips. You were all beauty to me, Mother. You were everything female, everything woman. I loved you so much that I wanted to grow up to be exactly like you, and the thought that I had done something bad choked me with guilt and grief.” – Mary Mackey, from I’ve Always Meant to Tell You: Letters to Our Mothers – An Anthology of Contemporary Women Writers

A Chuckle with a Dowager Countess

Earlier this year, PBS’ Masterpiece aired a new season of Downton Abbey, one of my favorite British series. Maggie Smith, as Violet, the Dowager had some delicious lines. Here’s a sampling:

 “Will someone please tell me what’s going on, or have we all stepped through the looking glass?”

“Don’t be a defeatist dear. It’s very middle class.”

“Wasn’t there a masked ball in Paris when cholera broke out? Half the guests were dead before they left the ballroom.”

“Of course it would happen to a foreigner. No Englishman would ever dream of dying in someone else’s house, especially someone they didn’t even know.”

 

Now, it’s your turn. Any of these thoughts quotes strike a chord with you?

Do you have one of your own to share?